Weather Forecast


Professor: 'Bellwether' Woodbury will likely remain swing district

Hamline University professor David Schultz said Senate District 53 will be in play in years ahead. Bulletin file photo

If Woodbury voters haven't yet gotten used to the revolving door of legislators it's seen over the past decade, one political analyst said they ought to.

David Schultz, a Hamline University School of Business professor, said the city's changing demographics will likely mean political alliances shifting across different election seasons.

"I see it continuing to be a swing district," Schultz said, noting that voting tendencies have changed as the city "is becoming more urban."

He spoke Wednesday, Nov. 14, to an audience at a Conversations in the Valley event in Stillwater, where he analyzed this year's election results.

In Woodbury, those results saw a changing of the guard from full Republican representation under Sen. Ted Lillie and Rep. Andrea Kieffer to a Democratic-tilted slate of legislators. Woodbury Democrat Susan Kent was elected to the Senate, while Democrat JoAnn Ward - also of Woodbury - was elected to the House. Kieffer also was re-elected.

This year's results represented the latest turnabout in Woodbury-area elections.

Woodbury-area Republicans swept to power in 2010 behind victories by Lillie, Kieffer and Rep. Kathy Lohmer - who represents a portion of Woodbury in the soon-to-be replaced House District 56A.

They ousted a cadre of Democrats - Kathy Saltzman, Marsha Swails and Julie Bunn - who were first elected to the Legislature in 2006. The so-called "Woodbury Three" had defeated incumbent Republicans Brian Leclair, Mike Charron and Karen Klinzing, two of whom were first elected in 2002.

In each of those elections - 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2012 - political swings at the Capitol have fallen in line with voting patterns in Woodbury.

Schultz agreed with former Rep. Nora Slawik, who in April declared "how this district goes is how the state will go."

"It has become a bellwether," Schultz said.

Whether the district tilts back to the GOP could be dependent on how aggressive the DFL-controlled Legislature chooses to play its agenda with fellow Democrat Mark Dayton in the governor's office.

"If the DFL overreaches ... (Woodbury) could very well swing back the other way," Schultz said, predicting that east-metro Democrats may steer clear strongly liberal-backed votes in order to appease their fluctuating constituencies.

But Schultz made clear at the presentation that his predictions don't always come true.

On the two constitutional amendments Minnesota voters saw this month, "I got it all wrong," he said. Schultz said he predicted both would pass; neither did.

He said he based his prediction on what he called the "candor factor" that existed in some of the other 30 states had had already passed similar amendments. In those instances - especially in 2004, he noted, when Republican voters were mobilized - polling results underestimated the actual support those measures would receive in voting booths.

"But 2004 and 2012 are very different," Schultz said.

He said this year young voters in Minnesota - a majority of whom support same-sex marriage - were mobilized by the marriage amendment.

"This is a huge, defining issue for a young generation," Schultz said.

He said the support from that voting bloc likely won't waver - and will likely spell doom for any future amendments attempting to ban gay marriage.

"It's over as an issue," Schultz said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072